An Unusual Friendship

I didn’t intend to do a blog so soon… and not a picture blog… But this morning I went for a walk while my family was still asleep. I thought about our walking path, right here in Elmira, but it is the trees and the river at the Mill Race in St. Jacobs that draws me back. So I packed my camera in my car and headed out to my favourite place.

When I first arrived, the trails were mostly empty. I met one or two in the first fifteen minutes or so. And that’s the way I like it, when I want to listen to the birds and watch the little creatures, scampering here and there.

I do like the people on the trail…  They are a very friendly bunch. I even observed a poster inviting ‘friends from the Mill Race’ to a memorial service for a gentleman who frequented the trails.  I’m not a ‘regular’ and didn’t know him. For me it is a sporadic thing, and mostly it’s in the spring when I find myself drawn there, with a camera. And I’m not really a photographer either, even as a hobby. That’s a bit of a spring thing too.

I love critters of almost every sort, and spring is the perfect time to capture them. The woods are not too overgrown with leaves, making them easy to spot. And at the Mill Race the critters are pretty friendly too, I discovered, first thing in the morning.

It took me off guard, at first, as I’ve seldom been out so early. First I spotted a cardinal. Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot, but managed to get a reasonable one at a distance.

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I hadn’t wandered far, before I came upon a friendly little chipmunk. Of all the little creatures in the woods, they are my favourite. If it were an option, I would have one or two as pets. Or maybe a whole family of them. The one I met this morning was unusually friendly, almost as though it was pursuing me, rather than the other way around.

I spotted it first by a stump, as it scurried to the top, as if posing for a few shots, before scampering back down. I tiptoed closer, until I stood right in front of that stump. To my surprise it didn’t run away. It peeked around one side, then ran to the other, before disappearing behind the stump again, only to reappear at the top. It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, and I couldn’t tell who was having more fun. Little did I realize, as I would discover in moments, that he expected me to serve breakfast.

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I was leaning in for a nice close-up, when I was startled by a little bird, trying to land on my camera. I’ve never walked the Mill Race that early, as I said, but I have walked it many times and have never had little creatures try to befriend me. Thanks to the little bird, I missed that shot of the chipmunk, and focused on it instead.

A little chickadee. I’ve always loved them. They are such happy little birds and friendlier than almost any others. As a youngster I managed to catch one, and bring it home as a pet I put it in our basement for safe keeping but didn’t account for our one cat finding its way in. I watched in horror as the trapped bird became lunch. I took me a long time to forgive Tiger for that.  I’ve never held a chickadee again, since that day…. until this morning.

I couldn’t get a good picture of it, so I walked a bit further, to a bench, where I intended to sit a while, just to watch and listen. Before I got there, several chipmunks caught my attention.

Behind me, on the trail, two women walked slowly. I assumed they were trying to be polite, so as not to disturb whatever creature I was trying to photograph, so I motioned–without really looking at them–that they could continue walking. When they didn’t seem to move, I looked up to tell them not to worry about noise. Instead, I saw one woman holding out her hand, with a chickadee in it. They were still a distance away, so I zoomed in. 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntrigued, I walked closer and took another shot. We chatted for a few minutes and one of the women wondered if I would post the picture on the Mill Race. I told her I could do one better and share them on my blog–which is why I am blogging again so soon, about photos–and they could see them here. After I gave them my blog address, they posed for a picture then, offered me some of the bird seed, and with that we parted ways. (And, if you lovely ladies do stop by my blog, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear that you found your pics.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy pocket filled with bird seed, I returned to the bench. I perched my camera on my shoulder, zoomed in for some close shots, and then, with my hand stretched out and filled with bird seed, I waited. And I didn’t have long to wait.  The pictures tell all…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA jealous little chipmunk scurried up the bench beside me, and almost before I knew it was there, I had it eating out of my hands.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadee stayed in a tree, only a few feet away, while the greedy little chipmunk finished off the rest of the seeds, then ran off again. I reached in my pocket, filled my hand with seeds again, and soon two chipmunks peeked around corners again, as chickadees fluttered around me, each trying to work up the courage to come back for more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadees came first, and took turns eating. They were all quite polite about it, other than spitting out the corn. When they left, I filled my hand again, and the little chipmunk returned one more time to stuff its cheeks.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy battery, which lasts for days at a time, decided at just that moment to die. My back-up pack only lasts a few minutes, so the fun was over.

It is the beginning of an unusual friendship… one I intend to invest in, as I am able. In my pocket I had a few more seeds. I placed them on a stump and headed for my car.

As fate would have it, with a dead battery, I missed the best shot of the morning. I blue-jay landed not far from my car, perched on a branch out in the open. A perfect shot.  But before I could snap the picture, my back up batter pack died. I was bummed. Blue-jays are not much to speak of, when it comes to personality, but they are so beautiful! I replaced the dead back up pack with the main battery pack and noticed it has a bit of life again.  By this time the blue-jay had moved into a tree. Not as clear, but still decent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was nothing left to do but to head home and recharge. And, speaking of recharging… I needed a little energy myself, so I slipped over to Tim Hortons for a little recharging of my own…

© Trudy Metzger

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A Picture Blog… “Close to Home”

Sometimes words fail. Like this last week…. There are things I want to write about… things I want to tell you, but the time isn’t right. And so I wait, in silence… patiently, or impatiently… until I am free to express and share…

In the meantime, I spent hours this week wandering through the beautiful wooded area of the Mill Race at St Jacobs. It was there, on a snowy night, where Tim and I admitted our love for each other, to ourselves… It is there we made a promise to wait until marriage for sexual intercourse… It is there we named our first baby, on that same night…

And it is the Mill Race where I go to be alone with God and nature… to wander and enjoy the peace and wonder of who He is, even when He seems silent, or far away. It is where I go when my heart feels lost and empty… when I am devastated or angry…. or any other reason that might make me feel the need to be alone.

This week I went to still my restless heart and enjoy the tranquillity  of God’s creation.  And then I wandered some other places and took more pictures…

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© Trudy Metzger

 

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

 

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Of Dresses & Jeans, and Good Food & Fellowship (Part 3)

After we visited the water buffalo farm, Nate and Juanita suggested I have dinner at Rosemary’s. I agreed, on one condition. I would need to figure out how to work things out with Nicole, who was still at her friend’s house. Their family was going to leave for an evening social gathering, and Nicole needed to be picked up.

I didn’t have my car, which meant Nate and Juanita would need to drive several roads the wrong direction to get her. That wasn’t a problem, they said. This left one little issue.

“Nicole only has jeans to wear,” I said. “Is that going to offend anyone?”

Nate assured me that no one would worry much about it, and she was welcome to come that way. That arranged, I called Nicole to see if she wanted to join us.

A drawn out ‘Okay…. I guess’ was the answer, so we picked her up and returned to the farm.  I introduced Nicole to the people I knew and some introduced themselves. Rosemary introduced her to some of her granddaughters. When I introduced her to David Wagler, he chuckled and said, “And I’m the Grandpa here.” Nicole found that humorous.

Peter and Naomi, and Lester and Tina returned in the evening with their families as well. Peter and Tina, who married into the Wagler/Gascho family, both come from my Low-German speaking background and teach their children Low German. It is the cutest thing to observe little girls in their Amish attire, talking in my mother-tongue. I couldn’t capture their language, but I did manage to sneak a few shots of them, without getting caught.

Nate and Juanita posed for a short photography session as well, in front of the buggy. I could just picture them, travelling around the country side as a sweet Amish couple. Well, I could almost picture it….

The smell of ‘schnibbled grumbara’–which I don’t know how to spell, but is the Pennsylvania Dutch for cut potatoes–mixed with ham, filled the house. One whiff of that, and I was very glad they had asked me to stay.

One thing about the Amish and Mennonites… they know how to serve up a good meal to a crowd. By the time dinner was ready there were people everywhere. It was fun and fascinating.

Simon, whom I had met earlier, and his family came, giving me opportunity to meet his wife, Kathleen. She was sweet and a pleasant conversationalist. I told her that her sister Elizabeth and Simon’s brother, Ivan, who are married, live in my area and attend my youngest brother’s church, but that I have not met them yet.

Ruth and Robert, Titus’s wife and oldest son, who had been resting earlier in the day when I was there, came over. Ruth has beautiful blue eyes, and a great sense of humour. We talked for a long while about raising boys with ADHD. Both of her sons have it to one degree or another, and three of our children have a version of it. She shared how it plays into their school work, and that medication seems to be helping, but with some side effects, like fatigue.

I shared how, while our children’s ADHD is very manageable, it has challenges. One son is on medication during school, because he cannot tame his brain to study. When his teacher first suggested it, I cringed. I don’t like medication. But one trip to the psychiatrist changed my mind and it has paid off. His marks have gone from mostly ‘C’ grades, to mostly ‘A’ and a few ‘B’ grades. He is our quietest, tamest son, but his mind is hyperactive.

The psychiatrist said it always passes from a parent to the child. And since it clearly isn’t through my husband Tim, that only leaves me. Something that isn’t too surprising for those who know me. (No wonder Brother Paul Zehr, my teacher when I was about eleven, asked, “Trudy, do you have ants in your pants?” I couldn’t stop giggling!) When the doctor said this, three years ago, it actually helped me make sense of years gone by and why I remember some things (visually) in graphic detail, while I could never remember where I put my keys or school books etc. Anything with ‘system’ I retain and know where to find. Anything for which I have no system…. Well, good luck ever finding it.

Ruth and I compared stories and chatted until dinner was ready. I have a feeling if we were next door neighbours, we would have a very close friendship. She seems the kind of woman I would connect with at a heart level in relationship.

Dinner was as delicious as it smelled. Fresh corn, potatoes with ham, fresh bread and the most delicious deep red tomatoes I had ever eaten. What a meal! And that was followed with dessert. Blueberry pie, brownies, peach cobbler (I think that’s what it was called) and fresh peaches with blueberries. Such a meal!

After dinner on the back deck, while adults continued conversing, the children started with games. There were shrieks and shouts of delight as a giant black garbage bag of colourful light-weight plastic balls were tossed in the air, to rain down on the yard full of children. It was just a few at first, and then the other children caught on. A flurry of activity and the yard was suddenly full of children, scrambling about, throwing these balls at each other. I worried they might get hurt, until I got my hands on one. There was literally no weight.

Nate was a good sports, getting in there and chasing the children, and being chased. It turned out to be Nate against the world of children out there, and the world of children against Nate. It was soon evident that Nate is no longer in his twenties. He dragged himself onto the deck, huffing, panting and sweating, as the children continued to bombard him.

Next it was Juanita’s turn. Thomas and Robert, having established a solid relationship with her, were determined to draw her in. And they did. It wasn’t long before Juanita had the fence and small shed as her dugout, and it was her against the gang of children. Nicole joined in as well,  jeans and all, engaged in the flurry of activity.

The time came to go. We said good-bye, thanking our host and hostess. Tina gave me a bag of beautiful deep red tomatoes before leaving. And as we got to the door, Peter asked if I’m sure we won’t stay for coffee. He had just poured some steaming cups of black energy. It was tempting but it was already almost 8:00pm and I still had one more friend, my cousin Helen, to meet for coffee before starting the ninety minute trek home to Elmira. Regretfully, I declined.

Nicole, who had been hesitant to go, fell in love with the children, the people and the culture. As we left, she said, “They were all very nice! They didn’t even seem to notice I was wearing jeans.”

I was thinking to myself, Oh, they noticed. But I said nothing. That kind of innocence is best preserved.

She added, “Because they accept me in jeans, just the way I am, I wouldn’t mind wearing a skirt next time to go see them.”

There is something in us, as humans, that desires to be loved and accepted, just as we are. We went into a culture very different from ours and received that from them, and offered the same to them.

The rich heritage, the community, the fellowship…. The beautiful culture…

I am not so naive as to believe that nothing bubbles below the surface… that volcanoes don’t form below the beauty of what we see. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses. Still, to find myself in the peace and simplicity of the Amish is a touch of heaven. I don’t have to deal with the volcanoes that brew, from time to time so I will indulge in the memories of a pleasant visit to Amish country, knowing that one day I will return, God willing, to see my friends there again.

© Trudy Metzger

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